After scoring 21 goals last season, Brian Boyle didn’t want to call it a career year, hoping there were better seasons to come.
The 6-foot-7 center has continued to play well defensively, helping to shut down opponents’ top lines, as he did in tonight against the Maple Leafs’ trio of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Tim Connolly, limiting them to just two shots on goal.
But with just two goals of his own, Boyle, 27, has been frustrated. “This season hasn’t gone the way I wanted offensively,” he has said repeatedly, “but something’s got to give eventually.”
Boyle’s 22-game goal drought ended in the second period when he snapped a wrister from the top of the right circle that eluded goaltender Jonas Gustavsson at 16:28 that gave the Rangers a critical 2-0 lead in a 3-0 win.
Did that shot get a monkey off his back? “Couple monkeys I think; there was a lot of stuff on my back,” Boyle said afterward at Air Canada Centre. “It was a nice feeling. Great pass (from Brandon Prust) and it found its way in... we really wanted that second goal.”
Martin Biron, who stopped 20 shots for his second shutout of the season and 28th of his career, agreed that Boyle’s goal was big, providing him some insurance. “But he still does all the little things,” Biron said. “What I remember more is when there was a point shot that I couldn’t see and he laid down in a butterfly and blocked it. Those are the things you appreciate as a goalie.”
With the physical, defense-first win, the Rangers rebounded from a 3-0 loss to the Senators on Thursday and raised their road record to 28-10-4. They visit Montreal tonight.
“Torts came in and said ‘Play stingy’,” Boyle said, “because they have some guys having great years offensively.” The Rangers were credited with 48 hits and 23 blocked shots.
“It was tough to create offense (in the scoreless first period),” Biron said, “but we got what we wanted in the second.” Mike Rupp’s fourth goal gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 3:35 of the second. He finished a tic-tac-toe passing play with Derek Stepan and Wojtek Wolski, slamming the puck past Gustavsson at the right post. Mike Komisarek, who had a tough game, made a poor pass to trigger the rush.
A third-period goal by Stepan, who froze Gustavsson on a rush, then fired the puck past him at 6:01, proved to be the cushion to lift the Rangers’ road record to 15-6-2. Gustavsson had won both previous starts against the Rangers, winning 4-2 each game.
The Leafs, who had six power plays goals in the last six games, had an enormous chance to cut the 2-0 lead in half early in the third, when the Rangers were whistled for having too many men on the ice at the 52-second mark.
But Biron, hanging on to the left post, twisted around to keep the puck under him after Nazem Kadri’s poke from the doorstep at 17:38 and a video review proved inconclusive. “I just tried to squeeze everything there,” said Biron, who notched his third assist on Stepan’s goal. “It was close but it was a big play to keep them off the board. I was fortunate it stayed out.”